M*A*S*H writers walked blindfolded in L.A. traffic to get this episode right

It was the first script from a green writing duo, and they wanted to impress by turning Hawkeye blind. One writer claims they almost died 15 times.

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On M*A*S*H, the writing duo Ken Levine and David Isaacs were the brains behind some of the show’s best episodes.

They gave us "Point of View" (which won a Humanitas Prize) and "Goodbye Radar" (sending off the M*A*S*H franchise’s most recognizable face), and more than 30 others.

But the very first script that Levine and Isaacs submitted to M*A*S*H was a quirky episode you might remember called "Out of Sight, Out of Mind."

Designed to catch M*A*S*H showrunner Gene Reynolds’ eye, the plot saw Hawkeye go temporarily blind for nearly the entire episode.

To make sure their script impressed, Levine and Isaacs went the extra mile.

They hired a consultant who worked with the blind to help them make Hawkeye’s reactions to his sudden onset blindness realistic.

That consultant told the writers that there was no better way to understand blindness than to experience it. She had the writers meet her at Beverly Glen Canyon, where she blindfolded them and had them try to walk up the boulevard — one of only five major roads into Los Angeles — while heavy traffic whizzed by.

In Ken Levine’s blog, he documented the intensity of this experience, which definitely showed how committed these writers were to making M*A*S*H great, even as outsiders trying to break into the show.

"I can't say how many times we were almost killed because I couldn't see the cars," Levine wrote. "But judging by screeching brakes and horn blasts — fifteen."

Luckily, both writers made it through the experience unscathed and better informed on how to convey Hawkeye’s abrupt descent into blindness.

But Levine said in his blog that walking blind up the boulevard wasn’t actually the hardest part of writing this episode.

He said writing Hawkeye’s speech took three days because, "We just kept revising and revising, looking for better examples and imagery, trying to be heartfelt and touching without being maudlin and cliché, and if possible, work in a small laugh. At times it was too long. Other times it was too short. We just kept going around and around until we were finally happy."

Their investment of time and nerve paid off, because Levine said Reynolds loved the script, especially the speech. The script became their calling card whenever they approached new shows as writers, and it nearly always got them the gig.

"From then on he kept giving us assignments and that first script, as our new writing sample when our agent submitted us for things, was our golden ticket," Levine said.

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MrsPhilHarris 31 months ago
I doubt the consultant would blindfold two people and then let them step off into traffic. I don’t think there were 15 times they were nearly killed. She would have been there guiding them.

Michael MrsPhilHarris 31 months ago
The exercise makes sense, but I'd expect bumping into people, tripping over something on the sidewalk, walking into a lamppost or mailbox, not being able to fi d something that was dropped, putting clothes on inside out, or backwards, or the wrong color.

In MASH in Korea, traffic is a small problem, but I can imagine all these things coming up fast if temporarily blinded. Yes, someone who lives with blindness adjusts, but surely lots of trouble early on.
MrsPhilHarris Michael 31 months ago
Yes true. I always wonder about food. Like what it looks like. Has it gone Moody?

But there is no way this woman would not have let them wander out into traffic. What if they had been killed?
Moldy not Moody. METV please get us an edit option.
WordsmithWorks 32 months ago
This is definitely top 10 (maybe top 5) on my M*A*S*H favorites list. Excellent writing, great sub-plots (Frank taking bets on baseball games he already listened to, the Tom Straw character) and very believable observations of being blind.

As to the article: "(S)ending off the M*A*S*H franchise’s most recognizable face." More recognizable that Hawkeye, the face of the series?

"Beverly Glen Canyon." Let's see, Laurel Canyon, Coldwater Canyon, and Beverly Glen all take you over the hill from the San Fernando Valley to Hollywood / Los Angeles. Not sure where "Beverly Glen Canyon" is. And there are WAY more than "only five major roads into Los Angeles." But thanks for the laugh.

F5Twitster WordsmithWorks 31 months ago
Beverly Glen Canyon is that part of Beverly glen Blvd. that runs north from Sunset Blvd. to Mulholland Dr. It's narrow, most of it one lane in each direction, and quite rustic. I can assure those contemplating a visit to Southern California by car, however, that there are many, many, many more roads into and out of Los Angeles. What the ill-informed writer of the above article probably meant to say is that Beverly Glen is one of four roads that run all the way from Ventura Blvd. in the San Fernando Valley, through the hills and into the Los Angeles Basin.
WordsmithWorks F5Twitster 31 months ago
That must be an old name for that section. I've lived in the SFV for 25 years and did not know that. I even checked Google maps (I don't like to call someone out with out being sure). No Beverly Glen Canyon Road.

You could argue that Ventura Blvd. itself will take you over the hill after it turns into Cahuenga Blvd.
Andybandit 32 months ago
I liked that episode. Alan Alda played in episode as a blind man real well.
harlow1313 32 months ago
I despise the temporary blindness trope. I believe it to be a sign of lazy writing and easy sentimentality.

Of course, I enjoy many M*A*S*H* episodes from the first five seasons.
Runeshaper 32 months ago
Ken Levine and David Isaacs are very dedicated men. They'd have to be to even think of trying this! LOL
Pacificsun 32 months ago
I enjoy watching the Shows especially after reading the backstory about one.
LoveMETV22 Pacificsun 32 months ago
Agree. "The More I See You," was on last night ,they did the story this past Tuesday. But that is common MeTV style. It does make the episode a bit more enjoyable when watching it though.
Pacificsun 32 months ago
S5 Ep4 Trying to figure out if the episode would be shown within the week. However, they've shuffled the order of episodes so no telling when this one will be on again.

LoveMETV22 Pacificsun 32 months ago
Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind (s5, ep3) On next Tuesday.
Pacificsun LoveMETV22 32 months ago
Thank You!!! I'll DVR it now!
Pacificsun Pacificsun 32 months ago

LoveMETV22 Pacificsun 32 months ago
Not questioning the episode #. MeTV schedule showed it as Season 5, Episode 3 on their list. Might be because Bug Out is a two -part? Who knows.
LoveMETV22 Pacificsun 32 months ago
IMDb shows S5E3 as well----- Hmmm A mystery Lol
Pacificsun LoveMETV22 32 months ago
No worries, I think the Episode Title is the key!!
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